The Hurd

Frank Heckenbach frank at
Mon Mar 18 23:37:29 UTC 2002

Jeroen Dekkers wrote:

> I don't think so. Linus wanted to write an operating system.

According to his book, he didn't initially. He wanted to write a
kind of terminal emulator. When adding more and more features, it
occurred to him that he was actually writing an OS kernel. Note this
was some time after he started.

> Almost
> everything was already there written by GNU.

"Almost everything" is not really true. Even today, the GNU system
uses a substantial number of components from BSD, X, TeX, etc. You
can call the whole thing the "GNU system" if you like (until the
other contributors complain that they are not credited ;-), but you
can't claim it was all written by GNU.

> He only had to write a
> kernel and a few other things. He misnamed this to "Linux" and didn't
> credit GNU.

As others have pointed out, he didn't name it. And even if he did,
it would have been no misnomer because what he wrote is really only
the kernel. If anyone, you can blame some of the distributors who
actually put together systems consisting of Linux, GNU and other

FWIW, I'm working on a GNU project myself, so I'm certainly not
hostile towards GNU. I can see why the FSF thinks it's getting too
little credit, and I also think so often. But the way you try to
"advocate" it, based on wrong assumptions and wrong conclusions, is
not helping it. Quite the contrary actually, since it "proves" to
opponents just how absurd it is. As an example: If the Linux
developers really called it "GNU/Linux", someone like Alessandro
Rubini would have to speak of "GNU/Linux", even though his system
uses only the kernel Linux and no GNU parts. So please, get
reasonable and don't try to misname the kernel yourself.

> Now if he only had looked further, he had found that there were
> already people making an OS.

As was quoted here, he knew that.

> He could have helped developping the GNU
> system.

But given his dislike of microkernels and his initial intention (see
above), he probably wouldn't.

> This was the history lesson for today.

I hope the next one will be better researched.


Frank Heckenbach, frank at
GnuPG and PGP keys: (7977168E)

More information about the Discussion mailing list